And when some there had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them. A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, “This man was with him.” But he denied it. “Woman, I don’t know him,” he said. A little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” “Man, I am not!” Peter replied. About an hour later another asserted, “Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean.” Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!”
Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed.
The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly. Luke 22:55-62 (NIV)
Peter’s three-time denial is a well-known story. It appears in all four gospels. Jesus, in response to Peter’s bold proclamation to follow Jesus to the grave if necessary, predicted Peter’s denial before the rooster crowed. That’s an odd indicator—a rooster’s crow.
If you are “city folk” and watch movies, you may be inclined to think roosters only crow at dawn. It’s quaint and it does occur. If you’ve spent any time on a farm with a brood of chickens, it doesn’t take long before you find the rooster’s “cock-a-doodle-do” isn’t reserved for only daybreak.
I’ll admit I’m a little afraid of chickens. Hens and roosters have chased me. Although a chicken’s arsenal is limited—flapping wings, sharp claws and sturdy beaks—they can put up a painful fight as anyone who’s been flogged or pecked can attest. Still, chickens are truly chickens at heart. They would rather avoid a fight than try to win one.
Enter the rooster. It’s a rooster’s job to keep his chickens safe. To accomplish that, he crows when there is danger. That is why roosters crow at times other than dawn. If you watch the hens when the rooster crows, you’ll see them all stop whatever it is they are doing—frozen, the hens watch for any sudden movement—the movement will send them clucking and scurrying in different directions or back to hen-house.
Peter ran the gambit of emotions during the Passover meal, the garden prayer, the arrest and the trails of Jesus. Peter watched from a distance as the predictions of Jesus began to play out before his eyes. Peter was probably wondering how difficult it would be to find a new fishing boat as he wondered why he wasted three years following this man, Jesus, around. Fatigue, fear, panic—I’m sure they all swirled in his mind as Peter watched the man he pinned his hopes on taken into custody and beaten. How long would it be before he was the one being beaten? If he could lay low — maybe this nightmare would end and the twelve would be together again, with Jesus—as it was before Judas ran out and Jesus insisted on talking about His death.
Then Peter heard the words, Hey! You were with HIM! Peter’s reaction was the perfect “blow off,” Pffft—You don’t know what you’re talking about. Peter was safe for a while as just one of the crowd. As more people recognized him, as his accent betrayed him, his panic moved him deeper into fear and denial. I don ‘t know what curse words were in his culture, but Peter was not going to be named as a friend of that %!#+&* Jesus-guy. The crusty fisherman reverted to his old self and separated himself from Jesus with his frenzied words.
Then a rooster crowed.
I have to think Peter’s heart skipped a beat. His fear turned to anguish. Peter had to feel naked in the crowd, a crowd that didn’t notice the rooster’s crow. Jesus, Peter’s friend—beaten, spat upon, silent—made eye contact with Peter. Peter left the courtyard and cried bitter tears.
Peter thought the low light of night and the glow of the fire would hide him. He thought he was safe with his questioning doubt and fear. Peter’s fear led him on a downward spiral that started with words and concluded with raging emotion—the rooster’s crow got his attention. It stopped him. The rooster’s nighttime cry redirected him. The rooster’s cry warned Peter—the path he was on was far more dangerous than the path he was trying to avoid.
Fear, sin, rebellion, all those lead one down a path of cost, pain and loss. Peter, jolted from his selfish tantrum, saw his friend. Jesus, the one who loved him, who gave him a new name, who prayed over him, who warned him, the one about to become the sacrifice for the sin of the world—seeing Jesus changes everything.
Two med cried bitter tears that night. Peter’s tears led him to repentance. Peter’s tears, ultimately, led him back to Jesus.
Father, give me listening ears to hear Your voice when my selfish heart tries to lead me astray. When fear and doubt cause me to be willful and frightened—get my attention—draw me back to look at Jesus. Help me keep my eyes on Jesus. Let Your love and grace bring me to repentance.
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